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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  6 July 1998
  Another Scorcher
  Return to Cairo Update Index


I usually like heat, but over the last few days it was getting just a little too warm for me. We had one of our balconies changed into an office a few months back and now between 1pm and 5pm it is like a heat trap. On Friday I opened the door to start some work but decided not to stay when I felt the heat on the inside. It was nearly 48 degrees C (120 F) according to the thermometer, I decided that there were more pressing things to do in the comfort of the rest of the flat.

For most of the time the temperature hovers between 35 to 40 C . When the heat is like this it is very difficult to stay cool. Even the water from the cold tap feels lukewarm so there's no chance to have a refreshing shower. The fans just circulate the warm air and we aren't rich enough to afford or run an air-conditioner. The temperature at night doesn't drop much either- once the flat is heated up during the day it gives off the heat at night keeping the temperature up. I'm writing this at 1:15am but the thermometer shows that the temperature is 30 C (88F)- the same as a hot summers day in Britain! It is not easy to sleep in this heat. So how do we cope?

We have friends who are members of a health club at a local 4 star hotel- so today we went swimming with them in an outdoor pool (For members and guests only). Not only did we stay cool during this time but we also enjoyed ourselves. We last went 3 weeks ago so it will be good to do this regularly over the Summer. For the rest of the time I've found that having a "cool" shower then dry myself off by standing in front of the bedroom fan works well.

Hannah and Esther seems to be coping fairly well. Hannah usually wakes up at about mid-night and asks for a drink. Afterwards she is quite happy to go to bed beside Alison for the rest of the night, so I will go in her bed. Esther sleeps through the night anyway so there's no problems there. She has a tendancy to develop prickly heat so we're constantly covering her with talcum powder.

After we first arrived we were surprised to find that the rubbish is collected every other day. Now we understand why this is so- it is incredible how quickly it decomposes in this heat. Anything perishable needs to go in the fridge.

It's a big problem to remember to drink enough. Several times we've experienced the classic flu-like symptoms of dehydration. The only solution is to sit down and drink constantly and relax. Today I was talking to a taxi driver who was bitterly complaining about the heat, I explaining to him that I was from England where we don't have weather like this but we'd be happy to, now and again! To be honest I'd prefer this kind of weather to the uncertain, damp weather that we left behind in Britain. At the very least, here we are guaranteed to have a decent Summer!

The work here continues of course, despite the weather! I was in another poor area last Sunday. We had to leave the car behind and walk the last few minutes by foot because there was no decent road system. The area was busy, hot and smelly. There were an unusual number of stray dogs eating the rubbish in the streets- I've heard that in areas like this up to 80 percent of the dogs are carriers of rabies. (I'm in the middle of a course of rabies vaccinations, this gave me a good incentive.) Life in these areas is difficult and to be honest I felt out of place. By their standards I was rich. I come from a rich country, I'm from a middle class family with a good education living in one of the richer parts of the city. I wore nice clothes and polished shoes. These people had very little- the children played out in the streets amongst the dirt and the rubbish. Their level of education was very basic and there's little hope that they will ever escape from the poverty trap.

Nevertheless I was accepted and welcomed. Because of their lack of schooling they found it difficult to concentrate for more than just a few minutes so it was difficult to speak to them the way that I wanted. I played with the children, spoke to them and showed them some tricks. They were very sad to see me leave. I'll be back again next month but I somehow I think that I'll always feel like the visiting foreigner . . .

Warm greetings to you all,

With our love,

Jason, Alison, Hannah and Esther

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It's a Fact!

Facts about Egypt:

  • Egypt's population is 66 Million

  • Egypt is four times the size of the UK

  • Only 3% of the land can be used for arable crops

  • Cairo has 18 million people and is growing by 1 millon each year.

  • Cairo is the Largest city in Africa and the Middle East

  • Official literacy rate is only 45%

  • A total of 11 languages are spoken in Egypt

  • Public Debt per person is $790

  • Average annual income is $630

  • Unemployment is estimated to be 17%

  • Religion: Approx. 85% Muslim and 15% Christian

  • Most Christians are affiliated to the Orthodox Church, less than 1% of the population are Protestant

  • There are an estimated 100,000 street children in Egypt


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